As blogged at the zoo, we were happy enough with our digs apart from it getting a bit hot, with the temperature increasing as the days pass it’s a situation that is only going in one way and it’s not positive. On the last day we treat ourselves to the $5 air-con, it was an improvement but not great. However, moving was decided upon from a financial viewpoint. Following a conversation over beers with a young man from Jersey, there’s a place not so far away and it’s $100 a month!! So we checked it out, the room rate is $12 a night for a fan room, but true to the mans word, the monthly rate is $100 and its tidy darts! A bigger room with hot water also, plus a better view and it’s very breezy being the only high-rise building in the area. I say high-rise, the room is on the top floor, the third, which affords a greater than 360 degree view as there’s a communal balcony at each end of the building. It’s called the Arun Raksmey but it’s much easier referred to as the Aaron Ramsey, the very talented Welsh football midfielder who started his career at my once again beloved Cardiff City FC. The guest house is located right opposite quite a big school and the Vietnamese friendship monument is also close, which ironically it’s a statue of a man, woman and child holding guns? Very friendly :-).
The city itself has three bridges – The old bridge, new bridge & the railway bridge and not too far away along its tracks is the old railway station, which is an interesting place to visit. The main building remains with it’s ticket booth and 1960’s Mosaic floor, there’s even some workers as now trains are more frequent in the Kingdom. The rail system is a long way from being fully operational tho’ even if that is the governments plan.
Crossing the railway bridge is possible along a small walkway on one side of the bridge, the river seems huge from here. It’s possible to climb down to the bridge supports which many locals do so to fish. Interestingly towards the end of the bridge on the eastern bank battle damage of the steel work frame can be observed, I imagine from the times of the Khmer Rouge or during the Vietnamese invasion. If you’ve been reading the blog you’ll know that I’ve also got a blog purely for photographs and I’m trying my best not to duplicate shots between blogs, not totally succeeding I must admit. Here’s a start tho’ as I’m posting a link to the best shot I captured of the bridge, it’s here, enjoy.
Now for an interesting fact, something most of you will be unaware of, which is also the title of this blog. Kampot is home to quite possibly the best pepper in the world. It taste’s like no other and is mega pungent 🙂 and colourful – red, black, white & green. During the time of the french protectorate production was increased the results exported any during that time any Parisian restaurant worth it’s salt, stocked and used Kampot pepper. Pol Pot and the Khmer rouge impacted that along with just about everything else in the Kingdom and destroyed all but a few of the crops, which put a stop to its production. Lately tho’ since 2006, it’s making a come back and there are a few plantations local to the city. So keeping in tune with the place it’s only right we visit a plantation ourselves and why not combine it with the trip to the caves. Not bat caves like in Battambang, but caves with stalactites and stalagmites, dark dank holes and possibly a shrine within. As we have started to slowly feel like part of the community and not total tourists (even tho’ we are) we don’t pursue the option of visiting both in a Tuk-Tuk, let’s take the wheels it will be no bother. So undeterred by the fact we’ve got lost before, more than once actually! We set off in the general direction of a cave somewhere off the road to Phnom Penh. This time we are clued up to the direction we are heading and if we need to consult the not so magical GPS, both phones have plenty of juice. Following a few twist and turns we get as far as a cement plant that’s crushing rock and stone to create its product. It’s getting towards sunset so we return to the city, not so much having got lost, but we didn’t locate our target – That’s half the fun anyway, plus we did spot a cracking place for a sunset shot, including others during the brief adventure. When your somewhere as interesting as Kampot, no journey is ever a lost one :-).
The following day we bite the bullet and call a Tuk-Tuk drive, the guy who first took us we when came home to Kampot. He’s saved in the phone as Tuk Tuk Tom, his name was Tom see which is convenient I suppose when you’re a Tuk-Tuk Driver, he thought is was funny at least. Bang on the dot he’s there to collect us the following morning, not actually himself but his dad. We leave the town in a totally different direction as to what we went the day before, heading east not north. An easy mistake to make the previous day? I think so, even if nobody agrees with me!
Toms dad takes a loop around towards the same destination but by a much more scenic route passing thorough little villages on a bright orange dirt road, which resulted in this interesting tree. There’s plenty to keep your mind occupied and now in the Tuk-Tuk it’s possible to take more of the passing scenery in, even cracking off quite a few shots which are not bad considering we’re on the move. Drive gets us to the destination at Phnom Chhnork caves and by his route it wasn’t so difficult to be honest, I just got it wrong from the beginning. There are many caves in the area formed within limestone rock, inside this particular cave is a hindu temple built-in the 7th century. It’s surrounded by interesting limestone formations, big fat stalactites. The view from the cave entrance is an impressive one of the plains of Kampot, shades of yellow and green, the odd farm and typical dwellings.
This is where it got interesting, getting from the caves to the pepper, OK we could have headed back to a sign more than ten klicks back. The route we take though would be impossible by yourself so many turns down tracks going nowhere, spared of any significant landmarks, it was a fantastic trip. A little bit like being on a magical mystery tour that were popular bus trips back home in the early eighties, when you bought a ticket with the destination unknown, but usually at the seaside somewhere. This tour gets us to the Starling ridge plantation, located in a picturesque setting where accommodation is also available. The pepper itself seems to grow like vines on brickwork columns erected in formation.
Back to real life for just a moment, there’s nothing happening on the job front, it’s as dead as a door nail and we’ve been in Kampot for almost a month without a sniff, which also means our visas will be up soon. There’s maybe a possibility of a job in Norway but I decide not to pursue it as it’s not panic stations yet, hopefully I won’t come to regret that decision later. Been before see, worked and lived in Noway, did a ten month stint in the capital. That was almost ten years back and it was daft expensive then, beer was close to ten British pounds a pint. Everything was crazy expensive, even the water. It was a surprise actually they didn’t charge for oxygen. Thinking about that tho’ all governments do so in the way of taxes, some just do it more than others, noway excess at it.
What sticks in my mind the most though was laundry I got done at the hotel – Two pairs of pants and socks, a few T-shirts, pair of jeans and two shirts. It was almost two hundred quid, a fatal mistake of not checking the price on my behalf!! Is it ever possible to justify that cost though especially at a 3 star hotel? How it’s been voted best country to live a few times is beyond me. Anyway – balls to that again, not to mention potential visa issues for the KP, so we let is pass. Cambodia is better for sure, shame there are no jobs here in my field, as laundry is one dollar a Kilo!! Cheap as chips in anyones book, well that is unless you’re budget backpacker who might want to venture the whole town on foot in the heat to save 25 cents a kilo.
Regarding our visas there’s a perfect solution that thankfully doesn’t involve the hassle, not to mention cost of a flights. The Vietnamese border is close and visa runs are possible, also for the KP. There’s even a few hotel casinos in no mans land between the borders where you can stay before coming back. However it’s a good opportunity to check out another place neither of us having been to before. So with Vietnam visas sorted before hand, off to an island we head. It’s a big one, the island that is and visible from the edge of town here. Sounds perfect for a three day break – Phú Quốc (pronounced Foo Cock) here we come………